How to Review the MCAT Psychology Section

June 25, 2024

minute read

The MCAT is a complicated exam. Preparing for it takes time, effort, hard work, and money. Therefore, you must ensure that all the effort you have put in is well-spent. 

While studying for the MCAT is a key factor, what you do on exam day is also crucial. You must ensure that you give it all on your first try. Otherwise, there is a chance you will be retaking the MCAT, and you do not want that to happen. 

One key strategy you can apply is to review your answers to make sure you get the answers correct. This article focuses on tips on how to review the MCAT psychology section. If you are interested, please keep reading.

What is MCAT Psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of human thoughts and patterns of behavior. Psychologists focus on studying and comprehending the interactions between the mind, the brain, and behavior. 

As a future doctor, you must thoroughly understand how people think and behave. That is why psychology is one of the disciplines covered on the MCAT.

You must draw on your understanding of foundational ideas and your aptitude for scientific research and reasoning to address MCAT psychology problems. 

Your knowledge of the psychological elements that affect how humans behave, observe and respond to their environment, and change their behavior is tested on the MCAT in psychology.

Sixty-five percent (65%) of the MCAT Psych/Soc part is devoted to MCAT psychology. In other words, 39 of the 59 questions will be about psychology. Psychology is essential for your MCAT.

Summary Table of Psychology Distribution in the MCAT

MCAT Section

Chemistry Subject


Number of Questions (out of 59)

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior 

Introductory Psychology



Total Number of MCAT Psychology Questions: 39

Psychology Topics to Study for the MCAT

You must be familiar with the various ideas and subjects covered in the MCAT's psychology section if you want to ace it.

The various subjects you must research for the MCAT psychology are listed below.

How to Review the MCAT Psychology Section: 6 Useful Tips

It could be stressful to take the MCAT. No matter how carefully you prepare for this important exam and how much you study, success is not guaranteed.

Even though it could seem complicated, it is far more straightforward than you might think. You will respond to the questions accurately if you know the numerous methods and techniques.

Here are the best and most productive strategies you may employ while you review your MCAT psychology answers as part of our ongoing help for you on your MCAT journey.

Read and Analyze the Questions Carefully.

To avoid making procedural errors, read the instructions before responding to the questions. If you are feeling anxious, this is the moment to take a deep breath and collect your thoughts.

You will understand the question better if you can figure out its keywords and the information it is looking for. The subject being tested by the question must be indicated, along with whether it is direct or application-based.


The feeling of emotion is linked to all of the following brain regions EXCEPT for the:

A. temporal lobes

B. amygdala

C. hypothalamus

D. pons


Note that the question has the word 'exception' in capital letters. Be cautious, as three options are associated with the brain region except for one. 

The limbic system's amygdala, a component of the temporal lobes, is in charge of processing information about emotion. This makes options A and B incorrect as they are associated with emotion. 

The hypothalamus functions in emotion and connects the neurological and endocrine systems. Option C is associated with emotion. Thus, it is wrong.

The pons, which connects the brain stem with the cerebellum, is situated under the middle part of the brain just above the medulla oblongata. The pons, which coordinate some autonomic processes with the medulla and affects posture and equilibrium, are unrelated to the sensation of emotion.

Therefore, the correct answer is option D – pons

For Questions that You are Unsure of, Use Context Clues

Students frequently get frustrated because it is unclear which concepts might be tested on the MCAT. This is in addition to the many terms and concepts that they need to master. 

Understanding how to use context clues and the process of elimination to cope with new topics is a crucial skill to perform better on practice examinations. Accepting that it is impossible to predict what will be covered is a difficult barrier.


What type of cell makes up the optic nerve, a bundle of fibers in the human visual pathway?

A. Photoreceptors

B. Bipolar cells

C. Ganglion cells

D. Fovea cells


If you are unfamiliar with the terms in the question, as long as you are familiar with the words in the options, you will be able to answer this question correctly. Take note that the question requires your knowledge about parts of the eye. 

The photoreceptors in the retina are specialized cells that convert light energy into nerve cell activity. They synapse with bipolar cells, which synapse with ganglion cells, although neither of these cells is a part of the optic nerve. Thus, options A and B are wrong.

The fovea, which has the highest visual acuity, has a lot of cones, a type of photoreceptor that is not part of the optic nerve making option D wrong.

The optic nerve, which transmits visual information to the brain, comprises the axons of ganglion cells in the retina.

Therefore, the correct answer is option C – Ganglion cells. 

Employ the Elimination Technique

After reading the question, we advise finding the passage segment relevant to the particular situation. 

Reread that section if you need more details to respond to the question.

When you are confident an option is incorrect, start crossing it out. After that, you ought to be able to rule out the possibilities and choose the best one.


Imagine that a researcher briefly subliminally flashed the words "sad" and "happy" before presenting subjects with a neutral image of people in a room. Subjects were more likely than those who did not see a subliminal word before the image to characterize the scene in negative or positive terms (according to the word flashed before the image). The words appeared so fast. They were perceived as a flash of light. This describes this phenomenon.

A. Primacy effect

B. Priming

C. Divided attention

D. Episodic memory


The scenario in this question stem is an example of priming, in which people are exposed to subliminal information. The primacy effect is the tendency for people to remember more of the initial information they hear or see while forgetting later information. This makes option A wrong.

Given that the images were not displayed concurrently, and the individuals were not even aware of the subliminal image, this scenario does not exhibit split attention, which is the capacity to do multiple tasks at once and to give attention to one or both of those tasks. Thus, option C is wrong.

This scenario is not an example of episodic memory; instead, episodic memory refers to the type of memory encoded surrounding an event of personal significance. This also makes option D wrong.

In this case, the term means a negative or good feeling before another stimulus, and the primed word affects how they react to the subsequent stimuli.

Therefore, the correct answer is option B – priming. 

Examine and Assess Each Response

This entails looking at the requirements for each response to rule out likely outcomes. You can reduce the options to just one pick by removing irrelevant comments.

Refer to the initial question frequently as you go along to ensure you remove responses irrelevant to the question being asked.


What understanding has a two-year-old toddler attained of Piaget's theory of cognitive development if a young boy keeps asking his mother for a favorite toy after misplacing it?

A. Schemas

B. Conservation

C. Object permanence

D. Formal operations


The toddler probably has a mental schema for "toy" that he fits his favorite toy into, but this does not explain why the child would beg for the item after it is lost because schemas are mental frameworks for arranging concepts. This makes option A wrong. 

Ages 7 to 11 are when children reach the concrete operational stage, which does not allow them to comprehend conservation, which is the understanding that the amount does not vary despite a change in size. Thus, option B is wrong.

Around the age of 12, formal operational thought begins. This means that option D is wrong.

A two-year-old has likely reached object permanence, recognizing that something exists even if they cannot see it. They are most likely in the beginning stages of preoperational cognition.

Therefore, the correct answer is option C – object permanence.

Take Note of the Diagrams

Most biochemistry questions on the MCAT can be answered using only reaction diagrams. Try skipping the text and going straight to the questions. You might be astonished to learn that you can answer the questions accurately while saving time.

As you focus on the diagrams, be sure you understand the skills being tested. Remember that the MCAT strongly emphasizes applying the knowledge you learned throughout your study session.


Melatonin Chart

In a sleep study, a typical 15-year-old participant nods out at 10:30. At midnight, this subject starts her first REM cycle. Which of the following measurements would be most likely to be recorded at midnight, according to the figure above?

I. 90 ng/mL melatonin levels

II. Low to moderate EMG activity

III. Theta waves and K-complexes are two EEG measurements

A. I only

B. II only

C. I and III only

D. I, II, and III


Figure 1 shows that 90 ng/mL of melatonin at around midnight would be within the typical range for a 15-year-old. This makes option B incorrect.

Item II is also wrong since there is little EMG activity during REM sleep. This is because the brain stem restricts movement, making option D unsuitable.

Stage 2 sleep is characterized by the presence of theta waves and K-complexes, but their absence represents REM sleep. Thus, option C can be eliminated. 

Therefore, the correct answer is option A – I only. 

Underline and Highlight Important Information

The ability to quickly examine the content that has been emphasized will help you manage your time throughout the MCAT psychology portion. You may quickly comprehend the main concepts or themes by emphasizing crucial terms, phrases, and details.

It is essential to be selective with your highlighting. Only underline the information you believe is important enough to warrant further inquiry, if possible.


An alleged assault victim has no memory of the assault. Follow-up testing reveals that the victim has no conscious recollection of the attack and has no memory of the day before the attack. According to Freud, which ego defense strategies is the victim most likely using?

A. rationalization

B. regression

C. repression

D. denial


Note that the highlighted words and phrases focus on the victim, not recollecting what happened to her. Devote your attention to essential keywords when highlighting.

There is no indication in the question stem that the victim is rationalizing, a protective strategy used by the ego to justify unwanted behaviors or feelings. This means that option A is wrong. 

There is insufficient information in the question to presume that the victim is utilizing regression; regression is the employment of coping mechanisms typical of an earlier stage in psychological development, such as returning to bedwetting after a traumatic experience. This makes option B incorrect. 

Denial is the deliberate withholding of a thought or emotion from the consciousness. Because the question stem specifies that follow-up tests show "no conscious memory," it is likely that the victim is not engaging in denial. Repression, however, entails unintentionally concealing a thought or sensation from consciousness. This eliminates option D. 

Repression is a technique to block unpleasant thoughts from entering consciousness; since the victim cannot recollect the incident and has no conscious memory of it, they are likely repressing their memories.

This means that the correct answer is C – repression. 

How Much Time Should You Give Yourself to Study for the MCAT Psychology?

Your performance on the MCAT will likely depend on how much time you put into studying. Keep in mind that the MCAT is difficult; as a result, you must invest more time and effort to achieve a high MCAT score.

We suggest limiting daily MCAT preparation time to 6 hours (except for full-length practice exams, which can take around 8 hours with breaks).

The optimal schedule will instruct you to devote three chunks of study time each day, giving you two hours for each section. Additionally, taking one day off every week is a brilliant idea if you are not subject to any strict time constraints.

MCAT psychology takes up 65% of the psych/soc section. Because of this, you should focus most of your study time on the many MCAT psychology themes described in the preceding section while you prepare for the MCAT.

Approximately three months should be dedicated to the MCAT. Please note that this could change based on your obligations for work and education. 

The MCAT can be aced with good planning and time management. Depending on your situation, vary and adjust accordingly.

Additional FAQs – How to Review the Psychology Section in the MCAT

Can I Self-Study Psychology for the MCAT?

Yes, you can study on your own for the MCAT. There have been students in the past who self-studied and were able to achieve a strong MCAT scores. 

If you are a self-reliant and independent student who knows how to create an effective MCAT study plan and can stick with it, you can do it too. 

In addition, make sure that you employ every reliable resource there is. You can also enroll in free MCAT prep courses and utilize free MCAT resources. This includes MCAT flashcards, practice exams, and question banks.

Do not forget to take the MCAT full-length exams to track and monitor your progress. Practice exams also help you identify your strong and weak areas.

Is There a Lot of Psychology on the MCAT?

Psychology makes up 65 percent of the MCAT psych/soc section. This means that out of the 59 questions in this section, 39 focus on psychology. 

Do not take MCAT psychology for granted, as these 39 questions could mean the difference between a strong and weak MCAT score.

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